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Relocator - Relocator CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.84 | 67 ratings

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3 stars I'll begin this review with a disclaimer: the kind of prog-metal fusion which Relocator plays is not a genre that I am in general extremely fond of. It often seems to me that the music can fall into a kind of comfortable homogeneity that is pleasant to listen to but not supremely memorable. However, while this self-titled release from Relocator does occasionally run into that problem, there are some very strong moments (both of the long tracks on the album are stellar) as well as some unexpected surprises, including the occasional inclusion of a violin. Of course, all the playing on the album is impeccable (Derek Sherinian guests on the album, and all of the other musicians are more than capable of keeping up), and I suspect that more die-hard fans of this kind of instrumental progressive metal will get even more from the album than I did.

"Red Vibes" starts the album off on a heavy note, with driving guitars and a variety of synths to create a kind of metal-tinged fusion sound. The mood quickly shifts however, and develops into a far more sedate sound, with some truly excellent bass work and more great ambiences courtesy of the synths. The track gets really interesting, however, with the introduction of a violin part, which gives the music a truly unique vibe that isn't heard too much in instrumental progressive metal. As a result, "Red Vibes" is far from standard prog- metal, carrying within it shades of symphonic prog and of course some touches of fusion. Rest assured, though, it's a rocker throughout, and a killer opener for the album.

"Biosphere" begins with some old-school synth sounds creating a very sci-fi atmosphere before the guitar is once again introduced, laying down some extremely heavy and precise riffing which is used just sparingly enough to give the track some extra bite without coming off as intrusive. The ease with which synth and guitar play off one another is very impressive, with melodies and solos trading back and forth and blending together with remarkable fluidity. The playing, of course, is impeccable as well-if I have one complaint, it's that the tracks seems just a smidge overlong: there are some truly excellent sections (there's a guitar solo at around the 6 minute mark that's simply amazing) but there's also some repetitive sections that I think I could have done without.

The title track, on the other hand, has no such problem. With a punchy, grooving bass-line and a perfect blend of jazzy tendencies and prog-metal technicality, "Relocator" is everything that heavy fusion should be. Sections are by turns crunchingly heavy and breezily deliberate-regardless, there's never a note out of place and the melodies around which the track is structured are very, very good. The end of the track is especially of note, with wailing guitar solos and increasingly impressive keyboards.

"Proxima" kicks off strongly as well, with complex rhythms from both guitar and synth. The guitar here is heavier than it has been in many places on the album, with quite a bit of harsh distortion; however, the clean synth sounds as well as multiple melodic solos prevent the track from coming off as too oppressively heavy. As with the title track before it, the latter half of the track is where the composition really seems to hit its stride, with near constant ambience from the synths serving as an excellent backdrop to the chugging riffs as well as the exquisite solos.

"Aavishkar" is the longest track on the album up until this point, and it begins quite mysteriously, with some faintly eastern-sounding motifs and a slower build than man of the previous tracks that hit the ground running. The violin makes a welcome return, lending its unique sound to the track, and to be honest I can't help but wish it had been used more. This is a small complaint, though, as "Aavishkar" is in my eyes one of the strongest tracks on the album, with huge amounts of variety between sections that range from standard prog-metal shredding to trance-like, almost folky themes. The slightly eastern vibe is, in my opinion, the track's strongest asset, and really helps to set it apart in a genre where sameness can be a fatal flaw. An excellent guitar solo at around the seven and a half minute mark is a highlight as well, with a perfect blend of emotive playing and perfectionist technicality strongly reminding me of fellow instrumental proggers Fromuz. Some stellar synth playing (though really, can you expect less from Derek Sherinian?) in the final minute helps bring the track to a strong close, and an understated guitar part finishes the track off on a tantalizingly mysterious note.

Unfortunately, the sameness that "Aavishkar" cleverly avoids is present in spades on "13 Reasons." While the performance is flawless as ever, it simply sounds too similar to the tracks that have come before it that it's simply not that memorable. Even the soloing is not enough to raise the song out of mediocrity, as it just comes off as more of the same. To be fair, the song ends on a better note than it started on, with the instrumentalists wailing away on their instruments like there's no tomorrow, but unfortunately it's "too little, too late" and "13 Reasons" ends up sounding, to me at least, rather forgettable.

"Urban Blue" begins as if it will have many of the same problems, with even the chord progressions beginning to sound familiar. Fortunately, it ends up being decidedly better than its predecessor, though I wish the synths were used a bit more sparingly, blasphemous as that might sound. The guitar ends up being the savior of the track, with several inspired riffs and fills that keep the track sounding compelling. A technically blistering solo dominates the middle of the track, and the track concludes with a fiery guitar part that leads into the final synth wash.

"The Alchemist," clocking it at a very respectable 11 and half minutes, starts off as compellingly as the album's other long track did. A bass/guitar duet creates an air of mystery and anticipation, such that when the heavy riffing comes crashing back, it's all the more powerful for it. This newfound intensity never lets up, either: the musicians sound like they're getting all they can from their instruments, but at the same time, the track never feels needlessly indulgent. As on "Aavishkar," the composition and playing seem to be at a peak here, with the perfect blend of feeling and precision. The melodies in the repeated motifs are excellent as well, lending a dramatic, climatic feel to the piece. Some softer sections break up the track as well, and with them comes the best use of the violin yet, with some parts that are genuinely and beautifully heartbreaking. Not to be left out, though, the guitar delivers a blistering performance as well, and the synths as well come through with an intensity that seemed to be lacking on some of the previous tracks. Overall, "The Alchemist" ends up being a killer closer and a solid addition to the annals of instrumental progressive rock.

All told then, this eponymous release is a mixed bag for me which nonetheless leans toward the positive. The highs are exceedingly high and the lows are never worse than "just ok," though the length and to some degree homogeneity of the album leave me with a slight feeling of impatience if I go at it all in one sitting. That said, the good parts of the album are very, very good, and if you simply can't get enough of virtuosic playing and mind-blowing technicality than this release will leave you far from wanting. Recommended for fans of Liquid Tension Experiment and especially Planet X, and perhaps even for fusion fans looking for a little more bite in their music.


VanVanVan | 3/5 |


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